TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Ivy Tech Community College was given approval by the Indiana State Budget Committee to proceed with plans to retrofit a building already owned by the college for its Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology Program. Final approval will come when the proposal goes before the Governor for his signature.

Ivy Tech requested approval to proceed with the renovation and conversion of an existing warehouse space in the rear of the former Doughmaker’s Building at the Vigo County Industrial Park South into classroom and lab space on the Terre Haute campus at an estimated cost of $2.9 million. The 26,344 gross square-foot project includes the creation of classrooms, a 12-bay learning lab and updates to the HVAC and exhaust removal systems. Once complete, the area will house not only the Precision Agriculture Technology Program, but also the Diesel Heavy Truck Technology Program.

Funding sources for the renovation includes a $1.2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration Ivy Tech Terre Haute received in April and other Ivy Tech funds, as well as gifts to the college. A capital campaign is ongoing for equipment needs.

The renovation of the building will allow students to learn about geospatial technology related to crop planting, fertilization, harvesting, and other farming operations, in an environment large enough to house farm equipment. Students with these skills will help to strengthen Indiana’s position as a global leader in workforce development, job creation and workplace advancement for the agriculture industry.

Agriculture in the U.S. is at a crossroads. Indiana is seeing an increase in the average age of its farm workers from 49 in 1950 to now approaching the age of 60. U.S. Department of Agriculture data indicates that farm output over roughly that same period of time increased 2.7 times. “The aging workforce forecasts the need for an influx of workers to take over both traditional and emerging roles in the sector,” says David Will, dean of the School of Technology at Ivy Tech.

Industries, especially those with an aging workforce, increasingly need to harness available technology to cope with the loss of experienced workers to improve their operational efficiencies and be environmentally friendly, according to Will. One area in agriculture that this is occurring is in geospatial technology to drive efficiencies in crop planting, fertilizing and harvesting. It is estimated that 95 percent of current farm implement equipment sold today comes with GPS/GIS pre-loaded from the manufacturer.

The value of GPS/GIS equipment allows for more efficient operation, optimal planting, harvesting and improved productivity, says Darin Kohlmeyer, chair of the Precision Agriculture Technology Program at Ivy Tech. “For example, under traditional land management practices, a farmer would apply fertilizer to the soil at a pre-determined volume suitable for the entire field,” he says. “With GPS/GIS data and technology, precision application decisions can be made, acre by acre, resulting in less fertilizer being applied, and reducing the potential for fertilizer run-off into local streams and rivers.”

This technology will require not only individuals on farms to understand it; but also represents changes to the industry with multiple points for significant job opportunities, including designers, manufacturers, software developers, equipment sales, and service, Kohlmeyer indicated.

The degree program has three pathways – each leading to a specific field in Precision Agriculture. Students will have the opportunity to earn three different 34 credit hour technical certificates – Agriculture Equipment Service Technician, Precision Agriculture Specialist, and Precision Agriculture Technician – all with proven job opportunities in the region. Each will also lead directly to an Associate of Applied Science degree.

Ivy Tech has an advisory committee that helps to develop the program and reviews the curriculum, equipment and facility needs. Representatives from Bane-Welker, Ceres Solutions, Crop Productions Services, Caterpillar, MacAllister, Winfield Solutions, AgReliant Genetics and AHW John Deere are assisting in this process. Several of these businesses have expressed a need for precision agriculture technicians, as well.

For information about the Precision Agriculture Program at Ivy Tech Community College go to https://www.ivytech.edu/precision-agriculture. Diesel Technology can be found at: www.ivytech.edu/automotive-technology